Why America Always Has Been (and Always Will be) Divided

Protestors face off against Baton Rouge's heavily militarized poice force folowing the shooting of Alton Sterling.

Protesters face off against Baton Rouge’s heavily militarized police force following the shooting of Alton Sterling.

On the evening of July 27, 2004, during a steaming hot summer in the city of Boston, Massachusetts, the junior senator from Illinois took the stage at the Democratic Party’s national convention and delivered one of the most important speeches in modern political history. Though the convention’s focus was to anoint the hapless John Kerry as the party’s standard-bearer for what became a futile effort to boot President George W. Bush from the White House, the convention’s keynote speaker focused less on an uncertain present and more on a hopeful future.

That keynote speaker — future President Barack Obama — delivered an address squarely aimed at undermining the toxic national divisiveness that defined America during the Bush years. In perhaps the defining moment of his political career, Obama insisted that, “there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.” Twelve years later, in the twilight of President Obama’s second term in the White House, some think that America is more divided than ever.

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Donald Trump & George Wallace: More Than Just Demagoguery

George Wallace campaigns in 1962 on behalf of aggrieved white dudes across Dixie

George Wallace campaigns in 1962 on behalf of aggrieved white dudes across Dixie.

As the presidential primaries bleed into an American spring that’s sure to be unlike any other in recent political memory, one thing has remained bewilderingly consistent: Donald Trump has made the Republican Party his chew toy, and like a stubborn beagle who just found your favorite pair of socks, he isn’t letting go. Whether the boorish billionaire wins or loses the GOP’s presidential nomination, he’s already made his bug-splatter-like mark on the American national windshield, and it’s gonna take a hell of a lot scrubbing to clean off.

Plenty of commentators (including your’s truly) have placed Trump within a rich tradition of American demagoguery. Few comparisons, however, have been more apt than the striking similarities between The Donald and Deep-South reactionary George Wallace, who ran for president during the 1960s and 1970s on a platform of reactionary racism, crude anti-intellectualism, and economic populism.

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Trump and the Revenge of the Middle-American Radicals

Donald Trump greets a mob of deranged Middle-American radcials in Alabama, a state where crazy is a prerequisite for political office.

Donald Trump greets a mob of deranged middle-American Radicals in Alabama, a state where crazy is a prerequisite for political office.

American politics has always stood as the ultimate confirmation of the notion, roughly quoted from Winston Churchill, that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others. In 2015, no phenomenon better demonstrated this truism than the rise and impressive staying power of bellicose billionaire Donald J. Trump, who floated like a piece of solid waste to the bubbling surface of the Republican Party septic tank and has remained there ever since.

With a brazen combination of Tourettes-like “straight talk,” anti-immigrant nativism, bone-headed “kiss me, I’m rich” charm, and the seemingly inherent gift of never overestimating the intelligence of the average white American slob, Trump turned what many Washington pundits dismissed as yet another political ego-stroke by an eccentric billionaire into a full-throttled run for the GOP presidential nomination. Indeed, much to the dismay of Republican Party elites, 2015 was the Year of the Trump, and his uncouth dominance of the early presidential race has many party king makers worried that The Donald’s low-brow moron style of campaigning simply won’t play well outside of the bone-strewn pit of Middle American Radicalism.

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Trump, Immigration, and the Return of the Know Nothings

Trump trumpets his hard-line immigration stance in Alabama.

Trump trumpets his hard-line immigration stance in Alabama.

If there’s one thing that’s always struck terror into the quivering hearts of status-conscious white American whimperers, it’s the threat of the looming “not like us” immigrant hordes. Throughout history, Real ‘Muricans of blanched complexions and insecure egos have duplicitously ignored their own non-tribal status while insisting that America should embrace the world’s tired, poor, huddled masses just so long as said masses ain’t too Catholic, too dusky, too Asian-y, too Slavic, or too Messican.’

Enter Sir Donald of Trump. In an era when the American ethnic demographic is rapidly shifting towards a non-white majority amidst an uncertain, recession-smashed 21st-century world, Trump’s hard-line immigration plan is just the sort of paranoid tonic to sooth conservative America’s anxious cultural cough.

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The Real Tragedy of the Forgotten White American

Mathhew Heimbach, founder of the Traditionalist Youth Network, takes  sip from a mug emblazoned with the visage of Confederate President Jefferson Davis...who preferred his coffee VERY white.

Matthew Heimbach, founder of the Traditionalist Youth Network, takes a sip from a mug emblazoned with the visage of Confederate President Jefferson Davis…who took his coffee VERY white.

Are you white? Are you an American? Do you feel that your country’s changing ethnic and cultural demographics are steadily strangling your “traditional” values, beliefs, and culture? Moreover, do you find yourself facing a barren social landscape in which steady, meaningful employment and an overall sense of meaning in life are both scarcer than a clinically sane Republican presidential candidate? If so, then you have every right to be aggrieved, just not for the reasons that Matthew Heimbach — a.k.a “The Little Führer” — advocates.

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The Long, Strange Tale of American Race Relations

Rev. Martin Luthrt King Jr. after delivering his "I Have  Adream Speech" in Washington D.C.,  August 28, 1963. From that moment on, racism was no longer a problem.

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. after delivering his “I Have A Dream Speech” in Washington D.C., August 28, 1963. From that moment on, racism was no longer a problem.

Here’s the thing about racism in America: it’s both ubiquitous and non-existent. Race plays a role in every major cultural issue that seems to tarnish our otherwise more perfect union — except when it has nothing to do with any given problem and we should stop talking about race because only racists talk about race. The latter is the preferred talking-point of the right-wing, whose collective fetish for American exceptionalism utterly inhibits their ability to interpret U.S. history as anything more than the triumphant march of alabaster altruists spreading benevolent, capitalistic, freedom-stuffed fruit baskets to all manner of benighted minorities who should be eternally grateful for this ivory-colored benevolence. Obviously, the history of race relations is more complicated than that, and leave it to a famous, gravel-voiced comedian to shed some light on how race really works in America.

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Ferguson and the Black Outsider in America

Black protestoers clash with Ferguson, Missouri's largly white, militarized police force.

Black protesters clash with Ferguson, Missouri’s largely white, militarized police force.

If you’ve never been black in America, then you can never fully understand what it means to be black in America. White folks like myself, regardless of our socioeconomic status, are born with the privilege of color — white privilege — and no matter how we conduct ourselves in our public and private lives, we’ll always be citizens of America in a way that black people still can’t be. To be white in America is to be a full citizen, but to be black in America is to be the perpetual outsider. When a St. Louis County grand jury failed to indict officer Darren Wilson for the August 9, 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the continued outsider status of blacks in America was laid bare for the world to see. Wilson, of course, is white, and Brown was black. If you think those facts don’t mean anything, then you haven’t been paying attention.

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The Triumph and Tragedy of American Whiteness

Angry white people protest school integration in Little |rock, Arkansas, 1959. That guy in the middle of the photo gets the award for angriest white dude EVER.

Some pissed-off white people protest school integration in Little Rock, Arkansas, 1959. That guy in the middle of the photo gets the award for angriest white dude EVER.

Let’s all shed a tear for the untimely and tragic demise of American whiteness. No, I’m serious. At no time in history have those-of-the-pasty-complexion had it so bad. It’s almost as if they’re on the brink of losing their sacred, inalienable rights to reap the best social, economic, and cultural goodies just because they’re melanin-challenged. To quote one of the most famous of all white philosophers, “this aggression will not stand, man!”

I mean, just look around you! White peoples’ percentage of the electorate is shrinking fast; their standard-bearer lost the presidency to a communist-socialist-Kenyan-Muslim-Buddhist-Podiatrist-usurper in the 2012 election, and perhaps worst of all: white people can’t even hold their annual “White History Month” parade in the proud American small town of Hope Mills, North Carolina without fear of being criticized by dusky people who just don’t know their place, dammit.

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Fear of a Black Santa: Kris Kringle and the Historical Color of American Identity

The gloriously 1970s-ish album cover for Akim's 19773 Christmas novelty tune, "Santa Claus is a Black Man."

The gloriously 1970s-ish album cover for Akim’s 1973 Christmas novelty tune, “Santa Claus is a Black Man.”

Everybody knows what Santa Claus looks like, right? Sure we do: he’s an obese, hirsute, exceptionally jolly home invader who shows up in malls, Christmas parades, and your living room every December armed with a sack full of goodies with the intention of teaching well-behaving youngsters the value of rampant materialism. Oh, and Santa is a white guy. We know all of these facts despite the overwhelming fact that Santa isn’t even real. Yes, I’m sorry Virginia, but Santa Claus is indeed a mythical figure. Yet, as anyone whose studied comparative religions knows, humans often imbue mythical figures with the very real powers to shape social discourse. How humans perceive mythical figures speaks volumes about the way they perceive important issues in their society.

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Richard Cohen, Thomas Jefferson, and the Legacy of White Privilege in America

Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen. Even his beard is white.

Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen. Even his beard is white.

Richard Cohen, columnist for the Washington Post, understands something. He understands that white people have it rough. Or, at least they think that they have it rough. Some white people think that they’re losing their traditional privileges as the default ruling demographic in America. Their ensuing anger has, of late, once again lit the age-old fuse of white grievance in the United States, and numerous media outlets have spilled plenty of real and electronic ink trying to access the implications of this anger on American culture.

Richard Cohen is, like me, a white person, and he wants to understand a particular brand of grievance that motivates other white people and manifests most potently in the form of that drooling, reactionary blob of grammatically challenged rage, the Tea Party. In a recent column, Cohen pissed off a large chunk of humanity by attributing Tea Party rage not to racism, but to fear of change. Despite devoting portions of his column to mocking Tea Party rodeo clowns like Sarah Palin, many readers saw a particular paragraph in Cohen’s column as evidence of the author’s apparent sympathy for conservative white cultural dominance.

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